Gymnastics: Raptors return state-tested team

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New East Ridge gymnastics head coach Caroline Urgo has inherited a situation made in most coaches' dreams.

The Raptors are loaded, again, with eight of the top nine returning from the team which won the Class 2A, Section 3 title and placed seventh in the state last season.

It was the second straight top-seven finish at state for the East Ridge team, which finished third two seasons ago under the leadership of all-around stars Megan Trollen and Wren Anderson. The Raptors have their sights set on more section and state honors this time around.

Returning for the Raptors are seniors Alyssa Chandler and Alissa Moline, juniors Cassie Kahrer, Hannah Walker and Abigail Joson, sophomores Lexie Corcoran and Amy Ruiz Plaza, and freshman Alexis Wallen. Newcomer Hailey Tretter, an eighth-grader, rounds out the varsity this season.

"I'm excited by the girls coming back and the new girls coming up," Urgo said. "There's a lot of talent out there."

Kahrer, Walker, Corcoran, Wallen and Moline all competed at state last season in the team event. Kahrer, Chandler and Corcoran qualified in the individual events as well.

Vault and floor exercise will be strong events for the Raptors again this season, and Kahrer is a champion on the uneven bars. Walker and Chandler can throw nines on the beam, so that's not exactly a weakness, and may be, in fact, the Raptors best event.

"I think we're pretty stocked this year so I think we can go far," Chandler said. "I'd say we're upping our game this year."

Coach Urgo steps into the shoes of Christopher Muras, who left the East Ridge program to take a volunteer position with the University of Minnesota men's team.

Muras left the program in amazingly good shape. The Raptors will have stars and depth this season to compete with anyone.

Kahrer is still battling the lingering effects of an ankle injury suffered at the state meet last season, but when she is healthy, she should be among the best gymnasts in the state. She won the bars in the section meet last season with a score of 9.5, was third in the vault and fifth on the floor.

Kahrer (third), Corcoran (sixth) and Walker (ninth) placed in the top 10 in the section meet last season in the all-around and qualified for state.

Chandler was third in the section meet on the balance beam and went on to finish 11th in the state meet in the event with a score of 9.3. Walker and Wallen both made the top 10 in the vault at the section championship, Corcoran was eighth on the bars.

Chandler would like to hit a 9.5 on beam this season.

Kahrer (third), Corcoran (sixth) and Walker (ninth) placed in the top 10 in the section meet last season in the all-around and qualified for state.

Chandler placed 11th last season at state on the balance beam.

While the Raptors return a core of solid performers, the newcomers are definitely pushing the veterans.

"I think everyone's a little nervous about placement and stuff," Chandler said.

East Ridge and Stillwater are expected to battle for Suburban East Conference honors this season. The Raptors host the Ponies Jan. 11.

East Ridge hosts what should be a good Forest Lake team Thursday, Dec. 7, to open the season.